For businesses that are enticed by the potential cost savings and productivity boosts that a voice over WLAN (VoWLAN) system promises but hesitant to shell out for expensive Wi-Fi handsets, softphones, which allow workers to make and receive phone calls from their laptop computers, are an intriguing alternative.
With that in mind, Toshiba this week introduced its first softphone client. The new Toshiba SoftIPT SoftPhone works with the company’s digital phone systems and offers workers the same features on their PCs as they have on their regular desk phones.
The SoftIPT is basically a software version of Toshiba’s IPT 1020 IP phone,
said David Fridley, a product manager in the company’s Digital Solutions Division. The advantage of the softphone, he noted, is that it allows workers to use a single device for both voice and data. “If you’re carrying your laptop with you anyway, why not have your IP phone on there?”
Some of the features supported by the softphone include conference calling, call forwarding and Caller ID. Users can also retrieve voicemail on their PC (an indicator light alerts them to new messages), as well as transfer calls into voicemail and broadcast messages. “It implements the same features that we have on the … regular desktop phones,” Fridley said.
In addition, he said, workers can download their Microsoft Outlook contact database into SoftIPT.
Toshiba is targeting several groups with this product. The first is what Fridley referred to as “mobile office warriors” — workers who always carry a laptop. “You’re getting more and more people that are … taking their laptop with them, and now they can take their phone with them, too.”
The softphone is also aimed at those who want to work remotely but still have access to their enterprise phone system. “I’ve talked to several people who just want to install this and use it at home,” said Fridley. Another target is call centers, where the appeal of the softphone is having a single device — the computer — to do it all.
The SoftIPT is designed for customers who have deployed Toshiba’s Strata CTX phone systems and BIPU-M2A VoIP gateway card. The software uses the Media Gateway Control Protocol
The initial version of the software client, which starts at $200 per license, is available only for Windows XP, but Fridley suggested that Toshiba would add support for other platforms, including Pocket PC, in the near future.
Toshiba currently bundles a softphone from VLI with its e800/805 Pocket PC, which features built-in Wi-Fi.